|Publication number||US7512448 B2|
|Application number||US 10/340,529|
|Publication date||31 Mar 2009|
|Filing date||10 Jan 2003|
|Priority date||10 Jan 2003|
|Also published as||CA2512794A1, CA2512794C, DE602004024956D1, EP1584216A2, EP1584216B1, EP2169982A2, EP2169982A3, US20040138723, WO2004064450A2, WO2004064450A3|
|Publication number||10340529, 340529, US 7512448 B2, US 7512448B2, US-B2-7512448, US7512448 B2, US7512448B2|
|Inventors||Crista Malick, Xie Qi, Mitesh Parikh, Steve Franke, Douglas L. Jones, Jeffery B. Larsen, Christopher D. Schmitz, Francois Callias|
|Original Assignee||Phonak Ag|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (105), Non-Patent Citations (18), Referenced by (64), Classifications (10), Legal Events (10)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention relates to communication systems, and more particularly, but not exclusively, relates to communication between hearing system devices.
Various approaches have been suggested to communicate between electronic devices carried on a person's body. Of particular interest is the communication between components of a hearing system. Such systems frequently include a signal processor, one or more microphone units, and/or hearing stimulus units spaced apart from one another relative to a user's body. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/805,233 filed on Mar. 13, 2001; Ser. No. 09/568,435 filed on May 10, 2000, and Ser. No. 09/568,430 filed on May 10, 2000; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,222,927 B1 are cited as further sources concerning various hearing systems.
Interconnecting body-carried components for hearing aids and other applications with wires or cables to facilitate electrical or optical communication between the components is generally undesirable. Indeed, wireless Radio Frequency (RF) communications through the atmosphere or an earth ground have been suggested to address this shortcoming. However, communication through the transmission of signals in this manner also has certain drawbacks, such as the potential for interference by stray signals, the difficulty of incorporating needed elements into a size and form factor that can be comfortably worn by the user, and/or the likelihood of a high degree of signal attenuation. Accordingly, there is an ongoing demand for further contributions in this area of technology.
One embodiment of the present invention includes a unique communication technique. Other embodiments include unique apparatus, systems, devices, and methods for communicating signals.
A further embodiment comprises a hearing system device that is configured to be worn on or in the ear of a user. The device includes a pair of electrodes disposed along the device to be placed proximate to or in contact with the user's skin. The device includes circuitry to transmit and/or receive time varying electrical signals through the person's body via the electrodes. In one form, the device is shaped to be received in the user's ear canal with the electrodes contacting skin along a top portion and a bottom portion of the canal. In another form, the device is shaped to be worn behind the ear with electrodes spaced apart from one another. In yet another form, the device is shaped to be worn behind the ear and is symmetric about a plane to facilitate interchanging it between the right and left ears.
Yet a further embodiment includes: providing a hearing system device including a first electrode and a second electrode; positioning the device in an ear canal or behind the ear of a user, placing the electrodes along corresponding skin regions; and generating a time varying electric potential between the electrodes to transmit information to another hearing system device utilizing the person as an electrical signal transmission line between the devices. When in the ear canal, the electrodes are generally disposed opposite one another to contact or be placed proximate to skin along top and bottom portions of the ear canal. For the behind-the-ear form, the electrodes are spaced apart from one another so that one is positioned along a skin region above an uppermost extreme of the concha of the ear and another is positioned along a skin region below this extreme.
Still another embodiment includes providing a housing for a hearing system device and a pair of electrodes; determining a maximum desired capacitance between the electrodes when carried by the housing and placed in contact with skin of a user; and disposing the electrodes along the housing with a separation distance, shape, and size to operate with a capacitance at or below the maximum desired capacitance and provide skin contact unbroken by normal body movements. In one form the device is of an In-The-Ear (ITE) canal type and in another form the device is of a Behind-The-Ear (BTE) type.
For a further embodiment, a hearing system device carried with the ear of a person and adapted to contact the person's skin, includes circuitry and a pair of electrodes each coupled to the circuitry. One or more of the electrodes are carried within the interior of the device and are spaced apart from one another to operate as a dipole antenna to selectively communicate information through the person as the hearing system device is carried with the ear.
Yet another embodiment includes a hearing system device with circuitry, a first member shaped to be carried behind the ear of a person, and a second member shaped to be placed in the ear canal of the person. The first member includes a first electrode to be placed in close proximity to or contact with a first skin region comprised of one or more of skin on a pinna, on a cranial region, and of a juncture between the pinna and cranial region for the ear. The second member includes a second electrode to be placed in close proximity to or contact with a second skin region along the ear canal. At least one of the first member and the second member carry the circuitry which is coupled to the first electrode and the second electrode to selectively communicate information through the person as the hearing system device is carried with the ear.
Another embodiment includes: providing a first device including a first electrode, a second electrode, a third electrode, and circuitry coupled to each of these electrodes; placing the first device in a position relative to a body of a person to put the electrodes in close proximity to or in contact with corresponding skin regions of the person; and electrically transmitting information through the body with each of a number of different pairings of the first electrode, the second electrode, and the third electrode.
In still other embodiments, multiple hearing system devices can be utilized between which one-way or two-way communication can occur via electrode pairs operating as dipole antennae. These devices can include a control device that has an interface for optional communication with an off-body unit. Alternatively or additionally, such further devices can include an implant unit. Multiple device systems can be used for intrabody communication via electrode pairs for purposes other than implementation of a hearing system. By way of nonlimiting example, such body worn devices as a headset with one or more earphones and/or one or more microphones, a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), a mobile phone, a medical monitoring or treatment device, and the like are among those types of devices that could be used for purposes other than to enhance normal hearing or impaired hearing of a person.
One object of the present invention is to provide a unique communication technique.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a unique apparatus, system, device, or method for communicating signals.
Further objects, forms, embodiments, features, aspects, benefits, and advantages of the present invention shall become apparent from the detailed drawings and descriptions provided herein.
In the following figures, like reference numerals represent like features. In some cases, the figures or selected features thereof are not drawn to scale to enhance clarity.
While the present invention may be embodied in many different forms, for the purpose of promoting an understanding of the principles of the invention, reference will now be made to the embodiments illustrated in the drawings and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended. Any alterations and further modifications in the described embodiments, and any further applications of the principles of the invention as described herein are contemplated as would normally occur to one skilled in the art to which the invention relates.
One embodiment of the present invention is directed to an intrabody communication system that utilizes the user's body as an electrical signal transmission line. In one form, this system is utilized to provide a Body Area Network (BAN) to communicate between various body-worn devices, such as a headset with one or more earphones and/or one or more microphones, a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), a mobile phone, a medical monitoring and/or treatment unit, and the like. In another form, this system is utilized to communicate between components of a hearing system to enhance normal hearing or impaired hearing of a person.
Referring also to
Devices 40 a and 40 b each include a pair of electrodes 32 configured to contact skin S of body B along respective ear canals C1 and C2, and/or be placed in close proximity to skin S. As used herein, “close proximity” between two objects means within two (2) millimeters of one another. Electrodes 32 operate to transmit and receive signals through skin S of the body B by utilizing body B positioned between devices 40 a and 40 b to communicate information-containing electrical signals. For the purposes of such communications, it has been found that the performance of electrodes 32 can, as a pair, be modeled as a near-field electromagnetic signal radiator and receptor of a dipole antenna type, utilizing skin S and/or other tissues of body B as transmission media. Accordingly, each pair of electrodes 32 of devices 40 a and 40 b are also designated as dipole antenna 32 a in
As illustrated in the schematic diagram of
Housing 41 a and 41 b each define a respective cavity 43 a and 43 b, that each contain circuitry 48. As shown in
Signal processor 48 a may be comprised of one or more components of a digital type, analog type or a combination of these operable to perform desired operations as described hereinafter. Signal processor 48 a can be of a programmable variety responsive to programming instructions stored in memory of a volatile and/or nonvolatile type, be of a dedicated hardwired logic variety, and/or execute logic defined by both dedicated hardware and program instructions. Signal processor can include only a single central processing unit or a number of processing units. For multiple processing unit embodiments, parallel and/or pipeline processing may be utilized. In one form, signal processor 48 a is based on a customized, digital signal processor in the form of a solid-state, integrated circuit device.
As used herein, “transceiver” refers broadly to any device having a capability to transmit and receive information. Transceiver 48 b includes a transmitter (not shown) and receiver (not shown) both coupled to electrodes 32 to transmit and receive information-containing electrical signals. These electrical signals are typically transmitted in a modulated format that conveys digital information, including but not limited to one or more of the following: Amplitude Shift Keying (ASK), a Frequency Shift Keying (FSK), Phase Shift Keying (PSK), Pulse Width Modulation (PWM), or Pulse Amplitude Modulation (PAM), Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM), or spread spectrum techniques. Alternatively or additionally, an analog signal format and/or modulation technique (such as analog Amplitude Modulation (AM) or Frequency Modulation (FM)) can be utilized. The transmitter includes a drive amplifier to output an electrical signal that generates a desired electric potential level across electrodes 32 while in contact with skin S. Components of transceiver 48 b are selected to provide a desired level of impedance matching with skin S, including, but not limited to baluns, predefined cable lengths, and/or other passive components, just to name a few.
Circuitry 48 further includes any power supplies (not shown), filters, signal conditioners, format converters (such as analog-to-digital and/or digital-to-analog converters), volatile memories, nonvolatile memories, and the like desired to perform its operations. Electrical power can be provided in the form of an electrochemical cell or battery and/or a different source as would occur to those skilled in the art.
Referring generally to
To communicate from one of devices 30 to another of devices 30, signals from signal processor 48 a of the transmitting device 30 are encoded with the corresponding transceiver 48 b and output as a time-varying electric potential across electrodes 32 of such device 30. The receiving device 30 detects the time-varying electrical signals with its transceiver 48 b and decodes such signals for use by its signal processor 48 a. The preferred range of carrier frequencies for such information-containing electrical signals is in a range of about 3 MegaHertz (MHz) through about 30 GigaHertz (GHz). A more preferred range is about 10 MHz through about 1 GHz.
This form of electrical signal communication uses skin S and/or other tissues of body B as a transmission line, such that at least two spaced apart electrodes, forming a dipole antenna, contact or are in close proximity to body B at each transmission and reception site. In contrast, other techniques have at most only one contact pathway, relying instead on a pathway through Earth ground or the atmosphere to provide an electrical potential difference necessary to provide a closed loop pathway for electrical signal communication. In
Consistent coupling of electrodes 32 to skin S is generally desirable because it provides for more consistent transmission characteristics of electrical signals through body B. It has been found that the anterior and posterior sides of the ear canals tend to change shape with nominal movements of the jaw, such as talking and eating, making consistent contact with electrodes 32 of devices 40 a and 40 b difficult. In contrast, movements of the top and bottom portions of the ear canals with nominal jaw movements are generally much less. Accordingly it has been advantageously discovered that more consistent contact between electrodes 32 and skin S within the ear canal can be achieved by placement of the electrodes 32 in a manner to contact and/or be proximate to skin S along the top and/or bottom portions of the ear canal (such as skin regions 26 a, 26 b, 28 a, and 28 b).
In another aspect, disposing antennae pairs on opposite sides of housing 41 a and 41 b has been found to reduce capacitance between antennae that also provides a more desirable impedance level for communications via human skin. Nonetheless, in other embodiments, one or more electrodes (antennae) may be located along skin in an anterior or posterior region along the ear canal and/or two or more electrodes (antennae) may not be positioned opposite one another. As used herein, “upper,” “lower,” “top,” “bottom,” “anterior, “posterior,” “front,” and “back” refer to relative positions of features of a user's body when the user's body is in an upright sitting or standing position.
Continuing with this mode of operation, once each device 40 a and 40 b is positioned, the corresponding sensors 45 are utilized to pick up sound which is converted into an electrical input signal that is provided to circuitry 48. The sound signals from the spaced apart sensors 45 can be utilized to selectively enhance sound originating from a particular direction relative to sounds (noise) from other directions utilizing a fixed or adaptive beamforming routine, and/or other binaural signal processing routine for a hearing aid or system as described, for example, in International Patent Applications Nos. PCT/US01/15047, PCT/US01/14945, or PCT/US99/26965; U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 09/805,233, 09/568,435, or 09/568,430; and/or U.S. Pat. No. 6,222,927 B1. To perform such procedures, at least one of devices 40 a and 40 b receives sound-representative signals from sensor 45 of the other of devices 40 a and 40 b to generate an enhanced output signal for one of stimulators 47 to stimulate hearing of the user. To generate output signals for both stimulators 47, bidirectional communications between devices 40 a and 40 b are envisioned as part of the execution of routines of the type referenced hereinbefore. Further, communications between device 40 a and 40 b can be desired to share processing workload between the corresponding signal processors 48 a in a distributed manner and/or to perform diagnostic or troubleshooting routines of one device 30 with another device 30. Alternatively or additionally, other processing techniques can be used to provide a desired type of hearing stimulus that utilizes one-way or two-way intrabody communication of electrical information-containing signals via electrodes 32. While devices 40 a and 40 b are shown as being of an In-The-Ear (ITE) type, one or more of these devices can be of a Completely-In-The-Ear-Canal (CIC) type or Behind-The-Ear (BTE) type.
Referring additionally to
Electrodes 132 are each comprised of a metallic member 134 and a dielectric layer 136 at least partially covering the metallic member 134 as best shown in
Housing 141 is generally symmetric about a plane that intersects contour 141 a. This plane of symmetry (POS) is perpendicular to the view plane of
In one preferred embodiment of devices 140 a and 140 b, antenna constituents 142 and 144 are separated from one another along contour 141 d by at least 10 millimeters to reduce capacitance therebetween. In a more preferred embodiment, the separation distance between antenna constituent 142 and 144 along contour 141 d of housing 141 is at least 15 millimeters. In a still more preferred embodiment, this separation distance is at least 20 millimeters. Alternatively or additionally, antenna constituent 142 and 144 are arranged along housing 141 so that antenna constituent 142 contacts or is in close proximity to skin region 126 a above an uppermost extreme 129 a of concha C of the ear and antenna constituent 144 contacts or is in close proximity to skin region 126 b at a level below extreme 129 a as illustrated in
Implant 140 c is illustrated in
Communication between implant 140 c and one or more of devices 140 a and 140 b can be by a wire or cable connection, through magnetic induction with an induction coil, through electrical signal transmission utilizing electrodes of the type provided for communication between devices 140 a and 140 b, through ultrasonic communication, and/or through such different means as would occur to those skilled in the art. In one embodiment, implant 140 c is only configured to receive communication signals. Alternatively or additionally, one or more of devices 140 a and 140 b can be arranged to only transmit or receive signals via electrodes 32.
In alternative embodiments, implant 140 c is provided in a hearing system with one or more ITE and/or CIC hearing system devices that communicate via electrode pairs. For such alternatives, microphone 180 is typically absent. One or more ITE or CIC hearing system devices in these arrangements can be used in addition to or in place of corresponding BTE hearing system devices.
As an addition or alternative to one or more ITE devices, CIC devices, BTE devices, and implants, a body-worn control device can be utilized.
Device 240 provides user control over system 220 and an off-body communication interface with off-body device 290. Device 240 can be provided in different forms, including but not limited to eyeglasses, a headband, a necklace and the like; or in the form of a wrist worn device 241 with a coupling wrist band or strap 241 a as shown in
Device 240 further includes signal processing/communication circuitry 268 coupled to control 242, indicator 243, and interface 245. In one nonlimiting form, circuitry 268 includes one or more signal processing units operable to execute programmed and/or hardwired logic to facilitate Input and/or Output (I/O) via control 242, indicator 243, interface 245, and perform any desired data modifications, conversions, storage, or the like; and includes any signal conditioners, filters, format converters (such as analog-to-digital and/or digital-to-analog types), amplifiers, power sources, or the like to implement desired operations as would occur to those skilled in the art. Device 240 communicates with devices 230 through a time-varying electrical signal transmitted through body B via electrodes 232 in the manner previously described in connection with systems 20 and 120.
Interface 245 operatively connects with off-body device 290 via a communication link represented by the doubled headed arrow designated with reference numeral 245 c. This communication link can be of a temporary or relatively permanent type. Off-body device 290 can be arranged as an audio satellite, providing a remote audio input to the user from a Public Address System (PAS), telephonic communication link, one or more remote microphones, an entertainment source such as a radio, television, MP3 player, tape player, CD player, etc. and/or a different type of audio satellite as would occur to those skilled in the art, just to name a few. Alternatively or additionally, off-body device 290 can provide data and/or parametric values used in the operation of system 220. Interface 245 can also be used in conjunction with device 290 to perform testing of one or more devices 230 and/or of system 220 collectively; communicate system or device diagnosis; and/or system/device performance data.
As in the case of system 20, ear-to-ear communication can be utilized between BTE devices 140 a and 140 b of system 120 to implement a fixed or adaptive beamformer routine or a different binaural routine. In still another embodiment, at least one of BTE devices 140 a and 140 b is configured with an earphone to stimulate hearing of user U with adaptation to operate in the manner described for devices 40 a and 40 b of system 20, and implant 140 c being absent. System 420 depicted in
Member 440 b is in partial schematic, sectional form in
Device 440 includes a pair of electrodes 432 configured to provide a dipole antenna designated by reference numeral 432 a. Electrode 432 carried with member 440 a is alternatively designated antenna constituent 442, and electrode 442 carried with member 440 b is alternatively designated antenna constituent 444. Further, antenna constituent 444 is shown embedded within member 440 b such that portion 446 of member 440 b is positioned between skin S1 along ear canal C1 and antenna constituent 444. Portion 446 is comprised of a dielectric material to facilitate capacitive coupling of antenna constituent 444 to body B. Electrodes 432 are composed of a metallic material or other suitable electrical conductor. Electrodes 432 are each operatively coupled to circuitry 448. In the case of antenna constituent 444, coupling to circuitry 448 can be accomplished by a cable or wire (not shown) that extends through or is carried with housing member 441 c.
System 421 can operate in the same manner as system 21 to enhance normal hearing and/or impaired hearing. Device 460 can be another device 440; device 40 b, 140 a, or 140 b; or another of the various hearing systems devices previously described, such as a CIC, control device (with or without an off-body interface), and/or implant, to name just a few. Communication between device 440 and 460 can be performed in the same manner as described for previous devices via electrode pairs with each pair operating as a dipole antenna in close proximity to or contact with body B.
Electrodes 532 are separated from outer surface 541 a of housing 541 along lowermost contour 541 d by portions 549 of housing 541. Electrodes 532 are positioned to contact interior surface 543 a of housing 541, and have more specific individual designations 532 a, 532 b, 532 c, and 532 d. In one form, electrodes 532 are plated or otherwise deposited on surface 543 a using standard techniques, and are comprised of a metallic material or other suitable electrical conductor. Portions 549 are comprised of a dielectric material configured to capacitively couple electrodes 532 to skin when device 540 is worn behind the ear of a user.
The partial sectional view of
In operation, circuitry 548 responds to an input from control 542, to successively cause different pairs of electrodes 532 to become active and correspondingly form a dipole antenna. Accordingly, an operator of device 540 can select between different pairings of electrodes 532 to find which electrode pair operates best for communication purposes with one or more of other device(s) 560 (
In other embodiments, not all of the possible unique pairings are offered as an option and the technique to switch from one to the next may differ. Alternatively or additionally, selection can be done with a different type of control and/or can be done in response to programming or another automatic procedure. In one example, the pairing is selected via an off-body unit. When a given electrode pair is active, the remaining electrodes are not typically utilized to perform communications—being in an inactive state. Naturally, in other embodiments more or fewer electrodes could be utilized than the four illustrated in
It should be understood that in alternative embodiments any of the communication techniques and arrangements of the present application could be utilized for systems other than those directed to enhancement of normal or impaired hearing. For example, user controlled computing devices such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) could be coupled to an intrabody network with a corresponding electrode pair operating as dipole antennae. Alternatively or additionally, medical diagnostic and/or treatment devices could communicate in such a fashion. Also, mobile phones, microphones, headphones, virtual reality devices and various other units that may or may not involve hearing and sound reception could utilize dipole antenna communication via electrode pairs of any of types described in connection with the systems 20, 120, 220, 320, 420, and 520 to participate in a body area network.
All publications, patents, and patent applications cited in this specification are herein incorporated by reference as if each individual publication, patent, or patent application were specifically and individually indicated to be incorporated by reference and set forth in its entirety herein. Further, any theory, mechanism of operation, proof, or finding stated herein is meant to further enhance understanding of the present invention and is not intended to make the present invention in any way dependent upon such theory, mechanism of operation, proof, or finding. While the invention has been illustrated and described in detail in the drawings and foregoing description, the same is to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive in character, it being understood that only selected embodiments have been shown and described and that all changes, modifications and equivalents that come within the spirit of the invention as defined herein and/or by the following claims are desired to be protected.
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|U.S. Classification||607/136, 607/55|
|International Classification||H04R25/00, A61N1/05, H04R25/02|
|Cooperative Classification||H04R25/558, H04R25/552, H04R25/606, H04R2225/67|
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